Exclusive: Lord Agnew ‘to leave’ the DfE

cost-cutting consultants schools

Academies minister Lord Agnew is to leave the Department for Education, Schools Week understands.

The Tory peer has been promoted to the role of minister of state at both the Cabinet Office and Treasury.

His time at the DfE has proved divisive in the sector, as he has led the way on making sure schools operate more efficiently.

One of his most memorable moments was when he bet school leaders a bottle of champagne that he could identify more savings in their schools.

He also famously claimed schools should stop staff making colour photocopies to save money.

The move could also signify a shift in policy focus at the department. Some have claimed the academies programme has stalled in recent years.

Sam Freedman, a former adviser to Michael Gove while he was education secretary, tweeted Agnew’s departure “opens up the possibility of serious academies reforms, depending on who replaces him”.

Just this week Agnew announced a new service to provide “rapid feedback” on school spending.

In the letter, he said: “I hope by now that the whole system knows my priority: financial resources made available to schools should be used as effectively as possible. To be clear, this is not because I am taking a narrow financial view.”

His scheme to send cost-cutting advisers into struggling schools also provoked controversy after Schools Week revealed they urged one school to cut its lunch portion sizes for pupils and replace experienced teachers with support staff on term-time contracts.

But an evaluation report of the scheme published last month found for every £1 spent on the scheme schools had saved £13.

Elsewhere in the department, education secretary Gavin Williamson and schools minister Nick Gibb have both been reappointed.

Baroness Berridge, another Tory peer, has been appointed as an under-secretary of state at the DfE, but it is not yet known whether her responsibilities will mirror Agnew’s.

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  1. Mark Watson

    Perhaps he’s tired of the pathetic vendetta organisations like SchoolsWeek have against anyone trying to bring a modicum of financial common sense into the education sector.

    Encouraging people to print and photocopy less, and when they do so to use black and white rather than colour? Saving money and good for the environment? Something that has been pushed and encouraged in the private sector for years, but when someone has the temerity to suggest applying this principle to schools it’s a “famous claim”.

    And pointing out that if a school is throwing away masses of food left on pupils plates it might be an idea to look at how much food is being put on the plate is again something I would suggest is blindingly obvious. If I put four Weetabix in my boy’s bowl for breakfast, and every single day he left one and a half uneaten, would it be (a) financially astute, or (b) financially incompetent to carry on serving him four Weetabix every day?

    Of course not everything he does is going to be 100% right. Not every suggestion made to schools to save money is going to be best for educational outcomes. But some will. And he’s a politician so everything will be subject to spin and hyperbole. Same as everyone else. But why is financial efficiency seen as a bad thing?

      • Mark Watson

        Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that schools should get more money.

        But in times of shortage, financial efficiency becomes even more important.

        And actually, even when/if more money does become available I’d rather it was spent wisely in ways that maximise educational outcomes, rather than being wasted.

    • rich atterton

      I think the only person who could defend Lord Agnew in this way is Lord Agnew himself. Forget about colour photocopying or reducing meal portions; you dont get savings of 500k per school by doing that. His primary method of savings was sack staff up to the value of 300k on average in the recent pilot report. In an typical school that is 3 heads teachers, 3.75 deputies or 5 assistant heads or 7 middle leaders or 8 UPS3 teachers take you pick which your school can afford. Staffing reviews and restructuring is sensible but what school is so top heavy that they can restructure 300k worth of savings.

      Financial efficiency is sensible, moral and important when public money is involved but I just simply don’t buy this idea that school are so profligate. I welcome Baroness Berridge’ appointment to the ministerial team and trust she will take to the time to get to know the schools of our country and the challenges they face and the miracles they work with so little money. .

  2. Alex Taylor-Ash

    Sure let’s look at portion sizes and colour photocopying whilst completely ignoring the fundong that’s been cut. So the SEN provision in scchools has been affected, support and teaching staff have been let go. You trying to tell me those savings schools have made from lunch portion sizes and photocopying have enabled schools to hire masses of staff?
    The fact that some are still able to deliver a great education to pupils whilst teachers, SLT and support staff literally work with two cans and a piece of string says much.

  3. I was in the audience when Lord Agnew offered the champagne to save us money we welcomed him to offer us this advice as we are cut the bone financially. He never got in touch. We even wrote our email addresses down in his personal notebook. So for all the commenting about this he didn’t actually do anything about it. A load of tosh – again.